Refused - Freedom (Album Review)

How does a band become famous, become legends, and mount a most anticipated return after they've already broken up? It's really quite simple. Predict the future. Okay. Maybe it isn't that simple, but Swedish hardcore punkers Refused did just that. Their 1998 album, The Shape Of Punk To Come, came out and was a sound straight plucked from Marty McFly's almanac as it really was the way punk was headed. Since that album countless bands have incorporated the elements of The Shape Of Punk To Come. Many have claimed to have been influenced by the Refused while others have claimed influence by those that were influenced by the Refused. 1998 was a long time ago and since Y2K was pretty much a hoax and we're all still here; the Refused rebooted their line-up, reformed, and have returned with a brand new album, Freedom. As a band that has had the phrase: "The Refused are f*cking dead" stapled to them for quite a while a full fledged comeback album was probably a pretty far fetched idea in most fans mind. I myself never expected another album from this band. I'm not even really sure that I wanted it. Even after the reunion Jon Brännström was fired from the band which was something longtime fans were concerned about especially since his guitar work on The Shape Of Punk To Come was something fans have enjoyed over the years. The Shape Of Punk To Come was the ultimate drop the mic and walk away moment in any bands career. There was a lot of anticipation and a lot of hesitance when I hit play on the new album.

"Elektra" kicks off the album and within the first few seconds those loud guitar and the build up the music underneath lets the anticipation kind of introduce the listener into the album. There is a lot of gusto and also a subdued nature to "Elektra". It's a really neat opening track and it rocks pretty heavy mounting a great introduction to this new album. "Old Friends/New War" has an experimental, almost industrial rock sound and with this track it's clear this band isn't going to phone in anything and ruin their legacy. Vocalist Dennis Lyxzén sounds as good as he ever has. His voice has aged really well and in spots he sounds nearly identical to his vocals on the The Shape Of Punk To Come. "366" is a raucous song full of swagger and the guitar riff incited head nodding when I listen to it. "Servants of Death" is an experimental song with some booming industrial sounding drums thudding along. Lyxzén sounds like Trent Reznor as he sing/screams the chorus of the song. That added with the neat guitar leads throughout the song make this song a really interesting listen. The guitars have a great groove to them. The song definitely incorporates some elements people really enjoyed from The Shape Of Punk To Come. "Useless Europeans" is a slow brooding, pulsating song that has some really abrasive percussion as the song picks up. It sounds like it could fit in on one of The Strokes albums. I like Lyxzén's somber vocals. It a pretty desolate sounding songs minus this really vibrant sounding wave of sound that really shows up during some of the more somber moments of the song.

The album's songwriting, as a whole, may not be as exciting or as breathtaking as when you first heard The Shape Of Punk To Come. However, the extremely long layoff hasn't impacted the bands ability to churn out a pretty pleasing batch of hardcore punk tunes heavy with Lyxzén's signature screams and enough catchy, heavy guitars and thundering drums. It's a solid addition and really fun listen. The detractors will obviously have a field day with this claiming it just doesn't live up to the hype. They might even claim it's a phoned in reunion record. You know the schtick you get with some critics. While it may not be able to live up to predicting the future like their previous album the band still prove that they can live in the future they predicted better than most. I think this is a pretty worthy addition to their discography and it's pretty neat to hear a new Refused album.

No comments: